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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 31)

The Ninevite king did not know that Jonah’s God, the real God, would forgive their sins and withhold His judgment.  But they repented anyway.  Biblical preaching involves both proclaiming God’s judgment and offering His forgiveness.  If the message preached is only forgiveness, listeners may simply yawn and think they have no repenting to do.  If the message preached is only judgment, they may fall into despair and conclude there is no hope.

Jonah needed to remember his compatriot Micah’s message in Micah 7:

18 Who is a God like you, who
    pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
    you will tread our sins underfoot
    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
    in days long ago. (Micah 7)

Micah is speaking of forgiveness for God’s covenant people, but outsiders (like the Ninevites) are invited into God’s family as early as Genesis 12 where Abraham was promised that he would be a blessing “to all nations.”

God is not willing that any should perish, as we read in 2 Peter 3:9- “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (see also Mt. 18:14).  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 30)

“WHO KNOWS?” — The Ninevite king knew something.  He knew that he and his kingdom had committed grievous sins against Jonah’s God.  He knew that judgment was coming.  He knew that the only proper response to this kind of holy God was thorough repentance!  Whether repentance would avert this God’s wrath was not known.  But repentance was his only choice.

How refreshing to hear the Ninevite king’s clear and persuasive wisdom in commanding wholesale repentance of his kingdom!  Yes.  Yes.  I know.  “Separation of church and state!”  But this king was convinced that his life and his subjects would soon be separated from their lives!

This king hoped beyond hope that Jonah’s God would “with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”  And he was right to hope!  For Jonah’s God responded.  Seeing their repentance, He “relented.”  He did not carry through with the destruction he had threatened.  There was mercy with this God!

I have a friend who for years served in Christian organizations.  But my friend Mike (not his name) turned away from the gospel and has now embraced a skepticism that nothing will penetrate (it seems).  I’ve tried my best apologetics on my friend.  Nothing brought him to his senses.  Then I spoke of God’s judgment, of hell, of God’s wrath against unbelief.

He became incensed and said, “I will not respond to threats!”  Neither God’s holiness nor His love softened my friend’s heart.  A genuine threat ought to drive us to certain conclusions.  At least it did with the pagan king of the Ninevites. (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Jonah

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 29)

The Ninevite revival was more than dust and sackcloth.  The king proclaimed to his people: “Let everyone call urgently on God.  Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.  Who knows?  God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (vv. 8-9).

I find this challenge from the Ninevite king amazing!  He calls for a city-wide repentance marked by earnest prayers (to Jonah’s God) and behavioral change.

What is truly fascinating is that the king doesn’t know that Jonah’s God will forgive!  He says, “WHO KNOWS?  God may yet relent . . ..”  This seems to indicate that Jonah never mentioned the possibility of forgiveness, perhaps because he did not want the Ninevites forgiven.

Jonah’s orthodox statement in this chapter — “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” — is what God wanted Jonah to say.  I wonder, however, if he said it with tears or with taunting?  With grief or with glee?  Judgment from a holy God is inevitable.  How does one prepare for that coming judgment?  Apparently Jonah had no interest in explaining to the Ninevites how God’s wrath could be averted.  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Jonah

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 28)

The message — “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” — was delivered — and believed!  That’s the best news any preacher could get.  To have one’s message believed is a real blessing.  How did the Ninevites show their belief?  They proclaimed a fast for all of them, from the most common servant to the king himself!  A wholesale, city-wide revival!

Jonah’s message is described in verse 6 as a “warning.”  The king of Nineveh set the example of repentance by stepping down from his throne, removing his royal robes, covering himself with sackcloth, and sitting down in the dust!  What an amazing thing it would be if our government leaders today took exactly the same actions!

The king then used his royal power to proclaim a fast for every living subject in his kingdom!  No tasting.  No eating.  No drinking.  Every living creature to be clothed in sackcloth.  It’s one matter to enforce such actions — it’s quite another to say “Let everyone call urgently on God.  Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”

Outward signs of repentance can be mandated.  Personal, authentic repentance is voluntary.  My, what an incredible revival Jonah’s “warning” has wrought!  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Jonah

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 27)

As we continue our study of Jonah chapter 3 (“Jonah’s Preaching”), I’m reminded of the statement by the American humorist Will Rogers (I think) who said, “I refuse to accept my religion from anyone who earns his living only by the sweat of his jaw!”  The three elements of a calling, an audience, and a message are given to Jonah.  Now it was his choice to go . . . and sweat!

We receive a few details about the city of Nineveh.  It is called “a very large city” and that it took three days to go through it.  I wonder what that felt like for Jonah, a Jew, to walk into the capital city of Assyria, a nation that would enslave Jonah’s own people within several decades!

And his message was not some positive-thinking, your-best-life-today sermon!  His message was a brief eight words:  “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  Forty days.  Forty more days!  Although the text doesn’t tell us, I suspect that the only words in Assyrian that Jonah learned were those eight words.  It is very clear from his reaction in chapter four that he did not want the Ninevites to repent.

If people came up to him and began asking him questions, “Forty days from right now?!  What do you mean, ‘overthrown’?, What can we do?  How do we avoid such a judgment?”, I think Jonah had no answers in their language.  He just wanted them judged!

The Bible says that judgment is God’s “strange work” (Is. 28:21 KJV).  John 3 says that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through [Jesus].” (v. 17).  God prefers to save.  And, aren’t you and I glad? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2017 in Jonah

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 26)

In our study of this “minor” prophet Jonah (minor in the sense of the shortness of the book, not a reference to its importance), we saw that chapter one could be entitled “Jonah’s Predicament.”  Chapter two (his prayer) could be labeled “Jonah’s Prayer.”  Our chapter three could be titled “Jonah’s Preaching.”

I preach for a living.  Yes, I’m part-time and semi-retired, but for right now the Lord has me serving a wonderful congregation in Georgia, preaching for them on Sunday mornings.

Preaching is an interesting — and challenging — activity.  I have the luxury of spending most of the week working on my one sermon.  I thoroughly enjoy studying God’s Word and asking the Lord to guide me so that what I say in those 40 minutes or so will be what the congregation needs to hear.

In chapter three we read that “the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time . . .”  God is patient with His servant and repeats His orders: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”  Those three elements — a calling, an audience, and a message — comprise the preacher’s challenge.  Some preach that maybe are not called; sometimes audiences don’t listen; and the message might be compromised by the preacher himself!

There is a great need for great preaching today.  If you are a preacher, do your very best!  If you are not, your very life is a message which is preached to an audience that isn’t sitting in pews on Sunday morning.  Do your best as well!   (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2017 in Jonah

 

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